Senate Democrats blocked two bills Tuesday aimed at banning abortions after 20 weeks and threatening prison for health care providers who don’t give medical aid to babies born after failed abortions.
Senate Republicans pushed for the votes to make a pitch to their conservative base in an election year and to show that Democrats are moving toward expanded abortion rights.
One of the measures, sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, would have imposed criminal penalties, including a fine or a possible five-year prison term, for medical providers who perform abortions after a fetus reaches five months gestation.
The bill, which Mr. Graham has pushed for several years, included exceptions for pregnancy complications that threaten the pregnant person’s life or if a pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
Senators voted 53-44 to move forward with the 20-week ban, but it was short of the 60 votes needed.
Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania voted with Republicans.
Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, two moderate Republicans, bucked their party and voted with Democrats to block the bill.
The three senators vying for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination missed the vote.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota were set to be in South Carolina Tuesday night for a debate ahead of the state’s primary on Saturday.
Their offices did not return a request for comment.
The bill that would have targeted health care providers was blocked 56-41.
Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican, had introduced that measure, which required health care workers to give medical care to a baby born alive after a botched abortion, ensuring the child is admitted to a hospital. If they failed to act, they would have faced a fine or prison time.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said the two bills gave senators a chance to take a “clear moral stand,” suggesting the GOP leader wanted to put Democrats on the record for abortion restrictions he called “morally straightforward.”
Sen. Rick Scott, Florida Republican, said the votes revealed Democrats stand for infanticide.
“Democrats showed how far they have shifted in their stance on abortion. Today, Democrats stood for radical, late-term abortion and infanticide, rather than to preserve the right to life for defenseless children. Their decision is horrific and shameful,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said the measures were aimed at energizing the Republicans’ far-right base.
“Priorities in the Senate are way out of line,” the New York Democrat said, adding the chamber should be working on legislation dealing with election security, background checks for firearms and dealing with the coronavirus.
“It’s a play to the hard-right base. The American people don’t support it,” Mr. Schumer said.
Critics of the bills said they are unnecessary and aimed at further limiting a woman’s control over her body. They argued state laws already ban murder, pushing back on the need for Mr. Sasse’s bill.
Proponents of the measures argued that the bills are humane and based on science.
Still, the votes put the senators on the record about late-term abortions. Only seven countries permit abortions beyond 20 weeks.
Sen. Steve Daines, Montana Republican, said the votes against the measures were “astonishing,” and as the founder and chairman of the Pro-Life Caucus, he promised to continue pushing pro-life policies.
“This shouldn’t be about politics. It’s about protecting life,” he said.
The Democratic Party has moved toward expanding abortion rights, including for the first time in 2016 making overturning the ban on federally funding for abortions part of the party platform.
The issues surrounding late-term abortion, however, remain dicey for the party.
Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a top 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, got into hot water recently when he dodged an Iowa voter’s question about late-term abortions. He said it should be the pregnant person’s decision, not the government’s.
The remark spurred complaints that he was alienating pro-life Democrats.
⦁ Jeff Mordock contributed to this report.
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